Judge Rules On Trump’s Request To Dismiss Classified Docs Case


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.

Judge Aileen Cannon of the US District Court denied former President Donald Trump’s motion on Thursday to have the charges of possessing classified documents dropped due to “unconstitutional vagueness.”

Trump’s legal team has filed two motions in total. Regarding the other move to dismiss under the Presidential Records Act, the judge has not yet made a decision.

Todd Blanche, the defense attorney, had earlier argued that the Trump position is that the Presidential Records Act gives the president the power to keep documents for as long as he sees fit, essentially taking them with him when he leaves the White House. If that is true, then Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment is “fatal” on its own.

“Presidents since George Washington have taken material out of the White House,” said Blanche, adding that the PRA was passed in the late 70s and nothing in the statute says anything about documents with markings or anything that gives the National Archives (NARA) the ability to challenge a president’s decision about which documents are personal versus presidential.

Additionally, Team Trump frequently emphasizes that NARA has never before contested a presidential decision regarding which documents are personal versus presidential and that it was President Trump himself who ordered the relocation of these boxes while he was still in office.


They assert that NARA only acted in this way because Donald Trump was the president in question.

Judge Aileen Cannon of the US District Court said to Mr. Blanche, “All that could be true. However, I fail to see how that results in the indictment being dropped. Perhaps a defense in court.”

In response, Blanche said that since the government had to demonstrate that the documents’ possession was unlawful, this was a “proper” avenue for a dismissal.

But Judge Cannon appeared to back down, stating that while there may have been “some force at trial, it’s hard to see how it gets you to a dismissal.”

At one point, Judge Cannon said that the way the Trump defense team interpreted the Presidential Records Act, it would effectively “gut the PRA,” allowing presidents to categorize records that are obviously presidential as personal.

Blanche replied that it is up to Congress to change the law. “That’s what’s supposed to happen. DOJ can’t just decide…” [what is personal versus presidential]. “We don’t have a lot of case law on this because this has never been done before,” added Blanche. “While he was the president he took records, like many presidents… For the first time ever NARA took a different path and made a criminal referral,” instead of negotiating with the president as had been done in the past.”

Judge Cannon at one point said, “Correct… the seizure of a president’s records was seen to be an extraordinary act.”

Blanche pointed out that in the aftermath of the Clinton presidency, “President Clinton hid tapes in his socks and NARA said there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Judge Cannon inquired as to whether any classified material was on those tapes. Blanche stated that since President Clinton’s tapes were never found, nobody is aware of this.

“They can’t have it both ways,” said Blanche. “No effort to investigate whether there was national defense information in President Clinton’s socks,” but still referring the Trump matter to the DOJ for a potential criminal prosecution.

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The documents found at Mar-a-Lago “were not personal, nowhere close to that,” DOJ prosecutor David Harbach informed Judge Cannon. The only thing to take away from them is that they were official, not informal.”

Reiterating a question from Judge Cannon to the defense, Harbach said, “Our view is that President Trump’s position would completely gut the PRA.”

Harbach also made a point of emphasizing Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team’s independence, saying, “We are not puppets or appendages of the Biden Administration.”


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